The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Perfectly Cooked Lamb Crown Roast

I recently cooked CROWN ROAST OF LAMB twice on my Big Green Egg. Both came out with the exact doneness I was shooting for, and I couldn’t have asked for better. This is a rather narrowly focussed and specialized tip, which applies to racks of lamb made into crown roasts. But I have a feeling I will be able to use the general principles for other meals too. It should definitely apple to a crown roast of pork. With the price of a 3 rack Lamb Crown Roast, I am happy to know this trick even if I only use it once or twice a year. This tip is not specific to any type of grill. But if you are cooking on a grill with a slow recovery time in cold weather, you may want to remove the roast from the grill while checking the temps. This will allow you to close the lid and retain more heat.

This tip involves getting a setup on your grill that will allow you to achieve the exact level of doneness you want for a rack of lamb butchered into a crown roast. The items you will need are a remote read thermometer such as a Maverick ET-732 or ET-733, an instant read thermometer as fast as a Thermapen (so in other words a Thermapen), a V-Rack (roast rack) and a roast pan large enough to hold the V-Rack. The roast pan can be a disposable aluminum roast pan. The other given here is that the crown roast will be cooked devoid of any stuffing, bone side down. If you are adding smoke to the meat and want to add it to the stuffing, you can cook the stuffing on the grill too in a separate pan. Just don’t cook it in the lamb as it will slow down and interfere with the even cooking of the lamb. Cooking the lamb bones down elevates the meaty part of the rack of lamb so it isn’t sitting down low, where it may end up soaking in the drippings. Having the meat elevated up in the air on top of the bones allows airflow into the middle of the crown roast. With the meaty part sitting down low in the post pan it is hard for much air to get under the racks and up through the center cavity. Having the bones down, meaty side up makes thermometer placement somewhat easier, but not without issues.

“Second

The v-rack helps steady the roast which is being supported by the bones.Brace selected bones against the rods of the v-rack to support the meat.


Before I talk about temperature probe placement issues, let me discuss placing the crown roast in the pan. Your butcher will have tied the racks together in at least one, but usually two places. There also may be a string running around the widest part of the rack, acting like a “girdle” holding the crown roast in shape. While a roast rack isn’t needed to support the meat when it is placed bones down, meat up, it does help steady the meat and help hold the round shape. I take some of the bones and place them on the opposite side of one of the v-supports from where they normally fall. This extra bit of tension helps to keep the bones from trying to fold under. If too many bones fold under, the roast will lose it’s shape or worse yet collapse. I work my way around the base of the roast and relocate some of the bones so the v-rack is serving as a side support for the bones. If the bone is trying to fold under to the left, I place the bone on the right side of the nearest v-rack bar to resist that movement. The last thing I do before heading out to the grill is insert the temperature probe into the meaty part of the lamb.

“Third

Proper probe placement is easy when you are doing a single straight rack. You come straight in from the side into the thickest part of the meat .


When you are cooking individual racks of lamb thermometer placement is relatively easy. You place the temperature probe into the side of the end rack and push it in until it reaches the center of the rack. You can’t do this with multiple racks made into a crown roast. With the roast tied off into a curved shape, the temperature probe placement is much more temperamental. When you come in through the side of the rack you are going into the middle of the meat 1/2” (1.25 cm) or so below the bone. With the rack standing bones facing down things are much harder. You end up inserting the probe from the top, facing straight down vertically. The lamb chops have been partially cut apart by the butcher in order to help curve the roast into it’s circular shape. You are trying to enter a relatively narrow area of a single chop & centered on it’s bone. You do not want to go in crooked so the probe tip ends up close the the side of the chop, Nor do you want to hit or come too close to the bone. You also want to lower the probe far enough down vertically so that the tip is in the widest part of the chop. Probe placement is easy to do with a side approach, but the vertical top down approach it is a lot harder. I found this out with the first Crown Roast I made for Easter.

“Fourth

The very narrow tip and shaft of the Thermapen helps out when you try to use the same hole for the Maverick’s food probe. The Maverick probe is bigger and so it gets a snug fit when you reuse the same hole.


I had inserted the probe between two of the bones and pushed it down into what I felt was the thickest part of the meat. The next step was to bring the cast iron pan, v-rack and the rack of lamb out to the Big Green Egg which was pre-heated to 350 degrees (175 C). As the lamb cooked, I noticed the reading for the food temperature probe was climbing faster than I would expect. The area in the lamb I was measuring registered 115 degrees (46 C) after only 10 minutes and the total cooking time was supposed to be 45 minutes. This told me I had a placement issue with the food probe, but what was I going to do about it? I went out to the grill with my Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer which gives me an accurate reading in 2-3 seconds. I temped a different area an found it read 98 degrees (37 C). This confirmed the placement issue. I went around and took about 8 more readings, which ranged from 96 degrees to 101 degrees (35.5 - 38.5 C). I had noted the location for the 96 degree (35.5 C) lowest reading. When I was done checking all the readings, I reinserted the probe into the location reading 96 degrees (35.5 C). It still read 96 degrees (35.5 C) and I noted the location of the probe carefully as I pulled it out. I reinserted the Maverick food probe in this location. The Thermapen has a very narrow shaft and so it was a snug fit when I reused the hole for the Maverick’s food probe. While the lid was open I also rotated the pan 180 degrees to even out the cooking.

I cooked the rack of lamb to 125 degrees (52 C) and I double-checked the readings with the Thermapen.This time the readings were all within a degree or two (0.5 - 1 C) of one another. I let the lamb continue to my target temp of 130 degrees (54.5 C) and took it off the Egg and gave it a 15 minute rest. When I started carving the lamb, I was relieved to find it was perfectly cooked. I am fussy and I couldn’t have asked for better. But don’t just believe me. None of my guests knew of my temperature reading issues, nor did I make any comments when I carved the lamb. So with no prompting from me, everyone commented on how the lamb was cooked to perfection.

“Fifth

The lamb was cooked exactly the way I wanted and everyone else commented on how perfectly cooked it was, both times I made it.


On Memorial Day I made lamb crown roast again for a friend’s birthday. This time I planned on using the same technique right from the start. I still planned on trying to get the correct placement with my food probe before placing the lamb on the Egg. But this time I planned on going out to the Egg with the Thermapen as soon as the food probe read 100 degrees (38 C). This time the temps rose more slowly, so I figured I had a better initial placement this time around. When I checked other areas with the Thermapen, I found I could still do a little better. This time my temps read 96-101 degrees (35.5 - 38.3 C). I then double-checked the 96 degree (35.5 C) low reading location, confirmed it was indeed 96 degrees(35.5 C). I moved the Maverick’s food probe to this location, rotated the pan 180 degrees and let the lamb finish up. When the lamb reached 125 degrees (52 C) I checked it again to makes sure it had cooked evenly. I removed it at 130 degrees (54.5 C) and gave it the 15 minute rest. Once again the lamb was cooked to perfection. Once again without any prompting from me, my guests all commented on how perfectly cooked the lamb was.

So it appears I am on to a repeatable method to achieve a perfectly cooked crown roast of lamb (or crown roast of pork). Here is a summary:

  • This tip assumes ownership and use of a remote read grill thermometer such as a Maverick ET-732 or ET-733 and an instant read food thermometer such as a Thermapen.
  • Cook the crown roast bone side down in a roast pan. A v-rack will help you hold and stabilized the bones to maintain the crown roast.
  • Place the remote read thermometer’s food probe into the meat. You will be inserting it in the vertical position pointing straight down. It will be inserted centered on one of the bones and down into the middle of the meat.
  • Go out to the grill when the food probe reads 100 degrees.
  • It may be best, particularly in cold weather to remove the roast pan with the meat from the grill while you take your readings. This allows you to keep the grill lid closed while you work.
  • Working quickly, take a series of readings with the Thermapen every few bones apart.
  • Note the location of the lowest reading you get.
  • When done go back to the location you got the lowest reading from and take a second reading. Try to reuse the same hole.
  • If the reading you get is still the lowest reading, remove the Thermapen and use this same hole to insert the food probe from your remote read thermometer.
  • If you get a higher reading try taking another reading in this area. If it is low use it. If another reading elsewhere was lower, revisit that area.
  • Before closing the grill lid rotate the pan 180 degrees from it’s starting location to help even out the cooking.
  • When the meat reaches about 5 degrees (3 C) lower than your target temperature, check again with the Thermapen. If all readings are are within a few degrees of one another close the lid and take the meat to completion.
  • If you get a reading that is more than 5 degrees (3C) lower, move the food probe to this location and then take the meat to completion.
  • The rest, whether you have one and it’s length will be determined by your recipe.

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